Social Issue Fair


The date and the time was upon us.
Would anyone come??

At 5:45pm, they began to arrive. 6th grade ELA/Reading students and their supportive family members in toe. All were eager to see all the Social Issue Projects at the Fair! Many dropped dollar bills into handmade donation boxes. Many purchased dessert treats and jewelry and slime. All knew the money raised would be donated to a variety of causes, hand-picked by the Fair Vendors, the 107 Sailor students!

“I have a question. How do I get this money to the Cancer Society?” a student honestly asked. I assured her that a parent or me could use our credit card to make an online donation in the amount collected and then we’d keep the cash. “Oh, I get it!” and she returned to her desk with a smile on her face, knowing she was making a small difference tonight for her cause.

The Project on Display at the Fair
The only requirement was that each student pick an ISSUE, any issue of their choice. (The had spent the last month reading short stories, video clips and novels dealing with social issues). Then the issue have to be defined and ways others might help with the issue explained (all discovered through reading research). Students could choose to work alone or with others. They could choose to make a pamphlet, a poster, a podcast, a slideshow, or a student’s choice. The goal: To raise awareness and/or raise money and donate to a cause. Through CHOICE, my 6th grade readers TOOK ACTION, acted as UPSTANDERS and put on a SUPER SOCIAL ISSUE FAIR!!! I am SO SO PROUD OF ALL THESE UPSTANDERS!!

Many issues on display were related to animals: Save the giraffes, elephants, pandas, otters, sea turtles, sting-rays, all endangered animals; against animal puppy mills, against animal abuse and for animal welfare leagues.

Many related to health: Finding a cure for Alzheimer’s, Cancer, Leukemia, and Liver Cancer.

Many related to dealing with living in the world: pollution in national parks, racism, anti-semitism, global warming, violence in the Congo, cyberbullying, women’s rights, gun violence, homelessness, suicide, asthma, drugs, alcoholism, and peer pressure.

I’m inspired by my students Upstanders!!

What issues do YOU stand up for? 


Worktime Sounds

I was exhausted yesterday after a day of WORKTIME. My 107 middle-schoolers are on a deadline. Tuesday night they will showcase an issue of their choosing at our Social Issue Fair. They spent 40 minutes working yesterday. I spent 40 minutes times 5 periods overseeing and offering support. It sounded like this:

  • “The tape dispenser’s out. Is there more?” Sure. Here you go.
  • “Can I print these images for my poster?” Sure. Airdrop them to Sally’s Macbook…OK, they are at the library printer. Go get them.
  • “It printed too big  and won’t fit on the poster.” No worries. Let’s print a smaller one.
  • “Do you have a box we can use to collect donations? Would this work (showing an unopened box of tissues)? Yes, but it is full of tissues.  Just pull out the tissues – you can put them in this bin and then use the box.
  • What do you need for your display?
    • Just a wall to hang this poster on. (I jotted this down on my spreadsheet)
    • A table near a wall – We need a place to hold the leaf cookies we are selling to raise money for the environment and we want our poster behind the table on the wall. (I jotted this down on my spreadsheet)
    • Just a table so my iPad can sit on it and people can sit and view it. (I jotted this down on my spreadsheet)
  • “Is this enough? Let’s see – Did you name your issue? Did you explain why it is an issue? Did you suggest ways the reader can help? Did you add book titles related to the issue? You will know it is enough when you have answered these questions. You need to decide.
  • “Where’s the tape?” In a loud voice, “Who has the tape?”

My students were doing all the work yesterday. I was just offering support and encouragement. I was gathering information so by Tuesday all 107 students’ project can be on displayed. We all were ona deadline. We all pushed to keep going. No wonder I was exhausted.


I’ve spent much time learning about Reading and Writing Workshop and I’m sold that this is the best learning structure to have in a classroom. I explicitly teach for about ten minutes. Then ALL work. Students read or write. I watch, listen and confer, confering more explicit teaching specific to each student based on what they are showing they can do during worktime. Currently, I’m in a district cohort studying Personalized Learning. My focus has been on giving my students choice and offering them authentic experiences.


I took these photos after worktime began yesterday. The girls on the right are passionate about saving the tiger. They are drafting a brochure. Then on March 12th, it will be on display to help raise awareness about this issue during our Social Issue Fair.

The photo on the top right shows a pair making images for their homeless display. Then asked if they could use origami and cut out images they draw to create what the homeless park in our county looks like. They help at the food bank near this park and want to teach others how to help this group in our town.

The photo on the bottom right shows another pair. They are researching asthma, a health issue they realized they both suffer from and could teach others about.

My favorite part of worktime is how it sounds. It starts with the room erupting. Voices chatting. Questions pondered fill the air. Opiinions shares. Chair legs scrape the floor as one moves to collect markers and scissors. Then the sounds change. Each settles into worktime and a quiet hush hangs over the room. All have entered the learning zone and are thinking so quietly.

I whisper to a pair of students, “How’s it going?” as I begin to confer with them. Softly one replies. We confer quietly among ourselves, not wanting to break the sound of worktime in the room.

No Longer Needed

At a conference once, I heard a teacher during a presentation make this comment: “There comes a point when I am no longer needed. My students are engaged…I can sit back and watch….my goal is to have students who are confident and excited… the by-product is increased knowledge.”

This description of a teacher is my goal, too. Having a classroom buzzing with students , all engaged. Students confidently making decisions. I plan and model. I set out materials. Then I watch and listen, ask questions and offer feedback. My role is to be the catalyst. The students’ role is to be in motion.

Tomorrow, I plan to have my 6th grade students watch this video and then I’ll guide a discuss using these words – vicitm, perpetrator, bystander, upstander. I’ll ask:

Why doesn’t the bystander act?
How might the bystander have made a difference?

Then I plan to nudge my students to notice if any of the stories we read during our Social Issue Book Club Unit (using this resource by TCRWP) involved upstanders. I plan to end the lesson asking them to spend time being on the lookout for upstanders, asking friends and family to talk about upstanders they have known, and to think about how they, my students, might become an upstander in their family or community.

Tomorrow’s lesson is to set my students up for our the End of Unit Project. As a culminating project, I will guide my students to pick an issue important to them and to plan out a way to TAKE ACTION in order to raise awareness about this issue. Then, on the evening of March 12th, families will visit to view our Middle School Social Issue Fair.

My hope is that all next week, my classroom is a buzz of activity. Students will be researching. Students will be creating. Students will be collaborating and discussing. And I will watch and listen and offer feedback. And my hope is, there will come a point when I am no longer needed.


NOTE: During March, I plan to revisit prior blog posts and revise. This post is a revision of this post, written on March 20, 2014



Reflections on Purl by Pixar

Viewing the new PIXAR short entitled PURL, I watched it in many ways.

As a mom of two adult daughters, wondering about their work force experiences.

As a teacher, whose work force is mostly all women. Yet, I know decisions are made that affect me by a “Bros” world. And never have I sat as the lone woman around the conference table, striving to solve a problem with a bunch of Bros.

As some of my male middle-schoolers ask, “How do you know Purl’s a girl?” Their innocent question made me glad I shared the video so a class conversation could occur.

As some of my other middle-schoolers  saw it as a video about fitting in, changing to fit in and having the courage to be oneself when someone is around that is like me.

As a Reading 6 teacher, currently teaching using the TCRWP Social Issue Unit of Study for Middle School, I saw how work place discrimination and gender discrimination were explored through examples of discrimination.

What do you notice TODAY using the lens of social issues?



Reading Notebook pages by four Reading Teachers, made during a Professional Development meeting, while sitting around a conference table. (Next time, we need to include a “bro”!)


March 14, 2018

“I need to leave at 10 of to help SCA,” a 6th grader announced.

“Can I go get my gloves and jacket from my locker?” another asked.

“It’s 10am. It’s time,” a 6th grader announced.

We headed out of our Mod 3 Reading 6 class, down the hall and outside to the back field. As we walked, the hallways were crowded but all were walking in the same direction as we were. So we walked four abreast, all heading outside as if it was a fire drill. Once at the field, student council members yelled through their meg-a-phones, “Form a circle. Make the circle bigger. Form a circle.” So I stood amongst 6th, 7th and 8th graders in a large circle, six deep. Some had signs. Some were in orange. Some were handing out orange ribbons to wear. IMG_0873

The air was cold and the wind whipped. I held this list I made this morning:


As I explained the opportunity to join the Walk-out March with my MS during morning homeroom, I explained the opportunity the administration was offering today. We discussed why today (a month after the FL shooting) and why 17 minutes (the number of deaths) and when I showed them my pink paper, I found myself getting choked up as I said “14 students and 3 teachers”.

Around 10:10am, the SCA began telling everyone to kneel down and I was amazed that all followed these student-led directions. Then it got quiet. I looked down at my list and said each name in my head. Then after the moment of silence, a girl I only know as the stage manager for the play that I help with after school, took the mega-phone and began to speak. “We are the generation who has lived through…” and she first named Columbine and stated how 15 died and then went on and on and on, naming places and the number of deaths and more tears filled my eyes. Chants began – “What do we want? Gun laws. When do we want it? Now!”